White collars and handcuffs
Most of the time when we think of crime we think of street crime, not white collar crime. After all, it is street crime that we are more likely to hear about from local news outlets, and it is often the type of crime we fear the most because it frequently involves physical violence.
We usually don’t pay as much attention to white-collar crime even though white-collar crime causes much more harm to the US economy.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, between 2006 and 2008 US companies lost approximately seven percent of their annual revenue to fraud. This amounts to $994 billion in fraud losses to the US economy between 2006 and 2008.
Not only do white-collar criminals cause more economic harm than street criminals, they are often less likely to be arrested and prosecuted for their crimes. Until recently, however, there hasn’t been as much concern over white-collar crime as there has been for street crime. That has changed with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Although OWS is somewhat disorganized in its message, many of its demonstrators express discontent with corporate greed and corruption. Because of the Occupy movement, people are finally starting to take notice of the damage white-collar crime causes the US economy and the fact that white-collar criminals are not being held accountable for their crimes at the same rate as street criminals.
It is much more difficult to catch and prosecute white-collar criminals than it is to catch and prosecute street criminals. Unlike most street criminals, white-collar criminals are able to avoid the legal system because of monetary resources. And even if they are arrested and prosecuted, most white-collar criminals will have a better chance at procuring lighter sentences than the average street criminal.
Part of the reason why there is so much white-collar crime in the US is that law enforcement agencies are not well equipped to handle white-collar crime. The primary law enforcement agencies that enforce the law on white-collar criminals are the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI. These two agencies are relatively small in comparison to the amount of white-collar crime that exists and are not fully equipped to enforce laws on white-collar criminals.
White-collar crime is a serious problem and should not be ignored. Everyone is obligated to obey the law, regardless of their social status or position. Corporate fraud and corruption negatively affects everyone who is not committing it.
The white-collar crime epidemic has become so harmful to the US economy that it can no longer be ignored. Hopefully increased public awareness and concern over corporate corruption and fraud will translate into increased enforcement of fraud and corruption laws — and higher rates of arrest and prosecution of white-collar criminals.James Johnson is a psychology senior and may be reached at [email protected]